With the 2023 season now just days away, a wide variety of players around the league are making changes to their jersey numbers now that rosters have been cut down and perhaps preferable options have become available. The Denver Broncos had a variety of players choose to change numbers after rosters were cut down from 90 to 53, including players on the active roster, practice squad, and even injured reserve...
The most shocking inclusion among players who decided to make number changes was veteran wide receiver Tim Patrick, who is on injured reserve for the second straight season after suffering an Achilles injury early in training camp. He's shockingly changing from jersey no. 81, which he has worn in Denver since 2017, to his college jersey no. 12. Patrick is expected to be back next offseason health-wise, but there are a lot of people who have seen the writing on the wall with his contract and potential as a salary cap casualty.
On the surface, this seems like something as harmless as a jersey number change. Even though it's notable considering it's Tim Patrick, a veteran on the team who has "established" himself in the jersey no. 81, it's just a jersey switch, right?
I'm not so sure.
Tim Patrick, despite not making an impact on the field this season, should still have a substantial impact both in the locker room and in the training/recovery room. He's a major asset for the Denver Broncos in terms of his locker room presence and the Broncos think extremely highly of him.
Even coming off of two major injuries, could a jersey number switch be an indicator that the Denver Broncos plan on having Patrick back in the 2024 season? I don't think that's a far-fetched theory. Patrick has not been able to get out there and prove to the Broncos why they signed him to a big-money deal at the end of the 2021 season yet. Although he certainly earned that contract with what he did in the years leading up to it, you also want to go out and make plays after you get the bag.
I can't help but think that Patrick is going to want to come back and show the Broncos that their investment was worthwhile. He's received $18.5 million in guaranteed money from the Broncos and has played 0 snaps since he received that money. If anyone would be amenable to returning on a team-friendly deal in 2024, it might be Tim Patrick.
Patrick is due a base salary of $9.5 million next season and carries a salary cap hit over $13 million. The Broncos are going to need to find ways to get under the cap next offseason and cutting Patrick would save them $10.75 million on the salary cap. Don't be shocked if Patrick signs a revised deal to bring his cap hit way down and return to the Broncos next year.
And perhaps this jersey number change will be looked at as our first hint he planned on doing so.